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General Jacobus De La Rey

Jacobus Hercules (Koos) De La Rey (1847 - 1914) was an important Boer general during the 1899-1902 South African War. De La Rey was a farmer and as a young man took part in various colonial wars, including the 1865 Basotho War and the Anglo-Boer War of 1880-81, giving him valuable military experience that he drew on in his later career. He subsequently became a member of the Transvaal Volksraad (‘people’s council’, its governmental body) and was part of the group which put quashed the 1895-6 Jameson Raid. On the eve of the South African War, De La Rey was appointed combat-general under the command of General Piet Cronje, and during the course of the war his patriotism and military ability won him the nickname ‘Lion of the western Transvaal’. After the war ended in 1902, De La Rey was one of the Boer generals who travelled to Europe, along with Botha and De Wet, to collect money for destitute Boer widows and orphans. Post-war he was a member of the Het Volk Party and a supporter of Botha. In 1908 he was appointed a member of the Transvaal delegation to the National Convention and so played a role in drafting the constitution of the Union of South Africa.

In 1912 De La Rey was nominated a member of the first senate of the Union and he also joined the defence council. He was given command of the government forces used to suppress the 1914 miners’ strike. Later that year when the South African government decided to enter the First World War on the British side and to invade German South West Africa, De La Rey was one the ex-Republican generals who dissented and organised resistance. He broke ties with Botha, but before he could take any action against the government he and General Beyers, travelling in a car together, were shot at a roadblock west of Johannesburg staffed by police wanting to arrest the notorious Foster gang of criminals, and De La Rey was fatally wounded. There was some suspicion that his death had been deliberately orchestrated by Botha’s government, and this contributed to the Rebellion against South Africa’s involvement in the war which unfolded later that year. In a letter to her friend Aletta Jacobs in early 1915, Schreiner described De La Rey’s death as “a great blow” to her and she had met him on a number of occasions.

For further information see:
John Bottomley (1982) The South African Rebellion of 1914: The Influence of Industrialisation, Poverty and ‘Poor Whiteism’ Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand, African Studies Institute
Michael Brien (2009) An Uneasy Anger: De La Rey and the Foster Gang Newlands, Cape Town: Ampersand Press
J.S. du Plessis (1968) ‘De la Rey, Jacobus Hercules (Koos)’ in (ed) W.J. de Kock Dictionary of South African Biography¬† Vol¬† I Pretoria: National Council for Social Research, pp. 214 - 218
Johannes Meintjes (1966) De La Rey - Lion of the West: A Biography Johannesburg: H. Keartland
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collection icon Aletta: The Aletta Jacobs collection is extensive and available on microfilm at the Aletta IIVA archive in Amsterdam. Schreiner’... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon Macfarlane-Muirhead Family: Schreiner’s letters to Robert Muirhead are part of Macfarlane-Muirhead family collection and can be accessed at the Mui... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon National Archives Depot, Pretoria: The National Archives Depot is Pretoria is a leading location for archival papers across a wide time-period, organisations an... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown: The National English Literary Museum is the leading location for collections pertaining to the imaginative and creative writi... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon SCCS Edited Extracts: Four groups of edited extracts from Olive Schreiner's letters can be accessed from here, made by her estranged husband Cronwr... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon University of Cape Town, Historical Manuscripts: Manuscripts & Archives at the University of Cape Town is a leading location for accessing archival papers across many per... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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